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Improving women's access to higher education : a review of World Bank project experience


  • Dundar, Halil
  • Haworth, Jennifer


World Bank project experience on what works to improve women's access to tertiary education is so limited that it may be premature to draw firm conclusions. Many of the projects with interesting multiple interventions are ongoing. But two conclusions emerge. First, the most essential factor for successful intervention seems to be a strong demand for educated women in the labor market combined with a high private demand for higher education by women (and their parents). How well a project succeeds depends on the extent to which project components are sensitive to the local situation in terms of these factors. Projects with often only a single intervention were successful in societies where the formal labor market is growing and there are few social constraints or qualifications to inhibit women's participation. Projects with single interventions are unlikely to succeed with such pervasive social factors as low secondary enrollment rates for women, high direct costs for female education, and heavy cultural restrictions in the labor market. Second, the link between programs offered and labor market demands is critical. High secondary enrollment rates, heavy private demand for women's education, and the availability of student places do not necessarily guarantee an increase in women's participation in higher education - unless the programs are dovetailed to meet the specific demands of the labor market. It is not enough to overcome social barriers through policy interventions. Projects must take an integrated view of social and labor market constraints. The Bank seems to be moving in a positive direction as more projects are addressing and taking action against gender inequities today than they did in the 1970s. Of the projects introducing gender-specific interventions, 62 percent were developed in the past five years (1987-92). Some recent Bank projects have multiple, interrelated interventions. Initial project results indicate that this combined (package) approach, made country-specific, could well increase female participation in higher education.

Suggested Citation

  • Dundar, Halil & Haworth, Jennifer, 1993. "Improving women's access to higher education : a review of World Bank project experience," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1106, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1106

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schultz, T.P., 1990. "Returns To Women'S Education," Papers 603, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    2. Lee, Valerie E. & Lockheed, Marlaine E., 1989. "The effects of single-sex schooling on student achievement and attitudes in Nigeria," Policy Research Working Paper Series 206, The World Bank.
    3. Verspoor, Adriaan, 1991. "Lending for learning : twenty years of World Bank support for basic education," Policy Research Working Paper Series 686, The World Bank.
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